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My Post got rather long, but maybe some of you have time to read it.

I structured it as following, so you can skip parts if you wish:

1) How I got DP
2) 9 years of DP
3) Beginning to recover
4) My Tips
5) Techniques that might help

TL;DR:
I have been in a constant DP/DR state induced by smoking pot for more than 9 years. I already made friends with it and accepted it as my new reality. But this summer something changed. I made this post to let you know that even after a long time of constant DP, things can change!

1) How I got DP/DR
When I was 14 I started to be depressed. Shortly after that I developed a social phobia, I was constantly stressed when around people, I didn't like to go to crowded places and at some point was even to scared to go to the supermarket. When I was 16 a friend and I bought some weed and smoked it. It was not my first time, but this time I overdid it. I wanted to test my borders and to see 'how stoned I could get'. Shortly after smoking I realized something strange: My environment changed, everything seemed far away but at the same time very close. Everything turned dark around me. And then my horror trip started. I don't remember how long it lasted but I was in a state of terror for several hours, heart racing, panic, strange sensations and alienation.

After my trip, everything went on normal, at least that's what I thought. Then suddenly I had flashbacks randomly occuring. After two weeks, one flashback just didn't stop. I was again on the horror trip. I didn't know what was happening. Together with my social phobia my life turned to hell. I couldn't think, I didn't sleep for weeks, I was in constant panic. My parents didn't know what do to. I went to a shrink, he was clueless. At the darkest point, which was probably around 3 month after the onset I was so deep into a derealized and depersonalized state that I started to doubt reality. Nothing seemed to exist. I was in the emptiness, talking into the nothingness of space. Nothing made sense any more, the concept of mere existence seemed nihilistic. There was no earth, there were no humans. I was in a bizarre parallel universe. Faces looked strange, disintegrated, all semantic was lost, the only emotion I had left was fear. I was a mere observer of a strange and surreal, meaningless surrounding. If you don't know what DP is, you can't imagine it. I could go on in elaborating symptoms (loss of visual imagination, loss of emotional quality, not feeling connected to my mirror-view, seeing yourself as a third person, thought spirals, ...), but I assume you all know them.

The strangest thing that I found was: As much as I was disconnected from everything, there was still my consciousness saying 'I am'. I was not the person I was before, I did not identify with anything, I did not 'recognize' my parents, my own thoughts seemed to be the ones of someone else, yet there was a core inside of it all that said 'I am, I observe'. As you know I was rationally fully aware of what was happening, I was not crazy or had a psychosis. (Because of this strange phenomena of pure consciousness I decided to study Cognitive Science).

Something had to change so after half a year of horror trip I decided to go to a mental hospital. Not the kind of where they tie you up and wear lab coats, it was more like a summer camp for troubled teenagers. This was my rescue. As if someone had touched a switch, my fear was gone. I had a great time, made lifetime friends. The only thing left was my Derealization. I don't remember a single day in the last 9 years at which my DP was gone. Doctors there said 'forward avoidance', that means getting rid of symptoms to not have to look at what is behind.

2) 9 Years of depersonalization
Getting back to school was tough and many symptoms came back, yet not to the extend as before. I again struggled with social phobia, had panic attacks, depersonalization, derealization. From 16-19 I had a very good therapist who helped me a lot. She was the one that made me realize that behind every symptom there is a reason. "Look behind the curtain" is what she always said. I owe here a lot when it comes to my understanding of life.

Years passed, I did my A-levels, I did a year abroad caring for the disabled, I started studying, got over my social phobia and made good friends in Uni. Yet DP was a constant companion. I still had phases of strong DP, of fear and self-observance, of depression. But then there were also times when I was so happy and so distracted that I didn't think of it too much. I accepted DP as part of my life, as part of my new reality. In the end: What was the difference? I was so far that I accepted that it would never go away.

3) Beginning to recover

Last year around September I started meditating with a Buddhist group. And just at the second time meditating for a split second I had the feeling of reality. Wow. I was there in the room, just for a second. Soon later I had a phase of stronger DP again and focusing on my thoughts seemed not like a good idea. Then I had a realization: It is as it is. Acceptance. If there is DP, that is what I observe. It is ok to be there. There is likely reason behind it. With this attitude I suddenly lost fear of the DP. From my experience I knew: Every DP state so far had ended, without me doing anything special.

Half a year later, I talked with a friend about my horro trip experience. She was very empathetic but just dropped the line: "Don't you think, it is now time to get over it?". And suddenly so many feelings from deep inside came over me. I couldn't believe it. I felt something was changing. The next few month I had no week where I didn't cry. Mostly during meditation I felt the need to cry. And I let it happen.

This summer I did a 7 days intensive Vipassana retreat. That means: 8 hours of meditation per day, no talking, no interaction, only observing, no judging. Despite this being an exhausting task, it was at the same time a very interesting experience. I experienced deep meditative states, states of bliss but also moments of despair.
On the third day then I was taking my daily shower. And suddenly I opened my eyes and couldn't believe them. Everything was real. Everything was back to normal. No fog, no alienation. After 9 years. I cried so much. I shook, I had all the emotions of my horror trip upon me, but in a good sense. It felt like processing them, leaving them behind, confronting my trauma. It was a crazy experience. I looked outside the window. I saw the clear sky. I saw the clear sky. Not just seeing it. I experienced it, I smelled it, I felt just as before. This night I couldn't sleep. I was so full of emotions and feelings of intensity that I thought I had lost. I was laying there, just playing around with feelings, imagining situations from my life and suddenly having 'the feeling' of the situation back, something that with DP was only vaguely there. The next morning I saw the sunrise. It felt like seeing it for the first time in a long time, it was so beautiful.

I don't even necessarily think that this was due to the intensive meditation retreat. It was just time for it to happen. It might have happened in a different situation. So don't get me wrong: I don't recommend anyone doing such a thing to overcome his DP. I didn't do it to overcome my DP. Do it only if you feel like it would be the right thing to do.

I still can't explain what's the difference between the emotions at this point and DPed-emotions. For me it seems as if DPed-emotions are just dull and lack 'the essence', the innate meaning, the special something. Olfactory sensation plays a major role for me.

Now, a few month later, I'm back to my 'normal' life. I just started studying in a different country. I still have DP at points of stress. I still often experience everything as dream-like (but that's ok). Yet in some moments I experience emotions as intensive as before, as real as before. I can 'feel' the autumn coming. I can 'smell' the freshly cut grass and the pouring rain.
To be honest: My life in general has not changed too much. I still feel depressed sometimes, I still struggle with the same problems as before. They were not induced by DP. I am far from being 'fully recovered' (whatever that means). Yet something has changed and I am curious what else will come in the next years.

Now I am sure, there is and was a reason for my DP. And there probably was a reason for my horror trip, a form of retraumatization. And with confronting these reasons, my DP will pass. And even if not: that's also okay. My life does not depend on it.

4) Tips

- Time: With time comes change. In hindsight it just seems obvious that with 18 I was just not ready to not have DP. Time was the most important factor for me, next to personal growth and insight into myself. Yet for others it might be different.
- When in deepest DP: Change something. Do a year abroad (everyone can do it! it's not a question of money.). Move to a different city. Join a volunteer group. Connect with other people. Get distracted. Don't do it to 'overcome DP', do it for the sake of it. Doing things 'to overcome DP' never worked for me.
- Stop reading the internet: Stop googleling symptoms, stop worrying about what is happening. Just do it. I know it is hard, but just stop yourself from reading yet another post about DP.
- It will go away, even if it doesn't feel like that right now.
- Have a different view: For me, DP has a reason. DP is a symptom. It is not just disbalanced chemicals in the brain that need to be fixed (although it doesn't mean that it has nothing to do with brain chemicals). It is a method of our mind/brain to avoid or shield us from certain traumata, and it is a very vicious and malfunctioning one. Yet my experience shows me: If you overcome your trauma, DP will pass.
- There will be no single thing that 'cures' you: Most likely you are not ill. There is no medication that you can pop to cure you. I tried several anti-depressants, they worked quite well but they left my DP unaffected. And they had terrible side effects, some of them persisting long after I stopped taking them. Stop experimenting with vitamins and food supplements. They don't change anything. The reason you have DP ist not (alone) a lack of any substance of transmitter.

5) Methods that might or might not have helped me:

- Meditation: I don't suggest starting with meditation while being in an acute DP phase. For some people meditation helps, for others not. I always thought 'meditation is just not for me' until I just did it. Don't start alone, seek a experienced person, be it a Buddhist teacher, Christian contemplate or a MBSR professional.
- Focusing (by Gendlin): I have encountered Focusing by accident and find it to be a very powerful tool. It helped me quite a couple of times to get to the core of what I am feeling. It also helped me to understand my own psyche. Symptoms are not there to annoy you, they are there for a reason. And 'listening' to them was a big step in my recovery (although sometimes it just seems impossible to listen to your fear).
- TRE (Trauma Release Exercise): This is a method that uses the body to release tensions and traumata that are stored in the memory of the body. Similar techniques can be found in certain Yoga practises. If the theory behind it is sound or not I don't know. If it really helps or if it is just placebo, I don't know. Most of the time I feel better after doing an excercise, that's what counts for me.
- Sport: Go swimming, running, cycling. Sport is scientifically shown to improve mental health.

Thank's for reading!

I am also happy to see that there is so much information out there nowadays. Back in 2006 the wikipedia article was just half a page and almost no reports of people overcoming it had been posted. Now I see many things and good tipps being posted, that is great!

If you have any questions: Feel free to ask.
 

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Beautiful post man. So happy there's many more people coming out of DPDRD. I'm in the midst of coming out only after a month and a half, but 9 years? Incredible. This proves that we have more strength than we give ourselfs credit for.
 

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"On the third day then I was taking my daily shower. And suddenly I opened my eyes and couldn't believe them. Everything was real. Everything was back to normal. No fog, no alienation. After 9 years. I cried so much. I shook, I had all the emotions of my horror trip upon me, but in a good sense. It felt like processing them, leaving them behind, confronting my trauma. It was a crazy experience. I looked outside the window. I saw the clear sky. I saw the clear sky. Not just seeing it. I experienced it, I smelled it, I felt just as before. This night I couldn't sleep. I was so full of emotions and feelings of intensity that I thought I had lost. I was laying there, just playing around with feelings, imagining situations from my life and suddenly having 'the feeling' of the situation back, something that with DP was only vaguely there. The next morning I saw the sunrise. It felt like seeing it for the first time in a long time, it was so beautiful."

Im waiting for this day to come for me...congrats:)
 

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Very nice, congrats.

I would like to hear more about what thoughts you have and anxiety level. Also your habits like drinking coffee/alcohol/maybe smoking sometimes.

And what do you think about DPDR in general. Why do you think you had it for so much time and what you would do if you were in the first 2-3 years for those who think they will not recover.

Thanks.
 

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I would like to hear more about what thoughts you have and anxiety level. Also your habits like drinking coffee/alcohol/maybe smoking sometimes.
Alcohol: One year after my weed accident I started drinking alcohol again. The first few times where hard, I was panicking to get a horror trip again. But over the years I learned that alcohol doesn't do anything to me. With my recent Buddhist influence and getting older in general I don't drink much any more. Often I just don't want to. Alcohol just tries to push things away, whereas from a Buddhist point of view it is about accepting also the bad things and the discomfort we sometimes feel.

Weed: I try to stay away from it. Whenever I smell it, I get very tense. When I'm in a room with lots of smoke, I often feel strange, especially the next day, I feel number, have anxiety. Surprisingly this changed radically after my experience last summer. So far that I even took one puff of a joint a few weeks ago, without experiencing major anxiety, but also no effect in general.

Caffeine : Whenever I drink something with caffeine I get nervous and anxious. This was not the case before my weed accident. I remember drinking two espressos and then going to bed like nothing happened. I like coffee, but I just can't deal with it unfortunately. Might have become a habit already. Coke is usually fine and energy drinks in small dosages (for learning) also, but anything with more caffeine immediately gives me nervosity.

My anxiety in general is pretty much ok. It got better every year and with every experience that I made. I still have phases of more anxiety, and phases of less, but I guess that's life? St. John's Wort helped me quite a lot with my anxiety (I've also tried synthetic anti-depressants, but most of them had scary side effects, that even continued long after I stopped taking them).

And what do you think about DPDR in general. Why do you think you had it for so much time
For me I think there are two components:

First is definitely a genetic one. My sister had a similar experience with weed (yet far less bad), and just last year I found out that my aunt also had bad experience with weed when she was younger. It is widely known, that genetics play a big role in how we react to drugs. At the same time my mother reported panic attacks during her pregnancy with me. That might also explain a factor of being prone to anxiety related things.

Second I think that the weed incident just triggered things that were there already in latent form. Before that I had already quite a history of psychological problems and was in the midst of my puberty. I am sure that this would not have happened with 20 or 25. It was the fact that I was in my adolescence and struggling with it that induced it. My therapist told me that one could regard it as a re-traumatization and that the original trauma is much deeper. I kind of want to believe that. The more I find out about myself, the more I can narrow it down. I also realized that my depersonalization always peeked in certain emotional situations (which I will not specify here). I think the key to recovery is getting to those traumata, whatever they are (doesn't need to be child abuse or someone dying, everyone has trauma in them.)

what you would do if you were in the first 2-3 years for those who think they will not recover.
Well, I think that varies quite a bit. The earlier you got DP, the longer it will take to recover, that's what I would say. But then again it is so individual, how can I tell?

Or was your question: What would I do in the first years of MY DP? Nothing different. I could not have. Every step takes it's time. Every step has to be done one after the other. If I would have started meditation with 17, it would not have had this effect. In fact, I remember trying it for a week and just couldn't because it drove me mad.
 

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Thank you for this. You've got lots of self awareness and that really makes what you way so much more useful and tangible, and you are realistic about life without DP - it's not a bed of roses!

Mine I think was partly weed induced, and happened around 14 years old for me, too, however I ate it instead of smoked it.

It's great to hear you've come so far through it. I've found mindfulness and meditation helpful too, although vipassana scared me a bit, I thought it might be a bit overwhelming, but it's good to hear it can be good for some. I guess like you say, it was the right time for you.

I wondered if you can say anything about managing romantic relationships - did you have any during those 9 years, or have you since? I ask because I find the mixture of anxiety and unreality I experience just so stressful that I sometimes can't feel anything above a kind of muted resentment when I'm with someone who I thought I liked, because of the extra stress that the social situation is putting on me.

If you did have any relationships, could you feel attraction, or even love? I feel i sometimes can't tell if I'm attracted to someone or if I just want to be, there's such a foggy stress-wall in-between reality and me. It makes me question if i should be in a relationship while I'm like this. It doesn't seem fair on the other person to not be there for them emotionally, and it's a lot of work trying to be alive and present just for myself, let alone when there's a whole other person there.

As you say, life will go on with it or without DP, but it makes me sad because it separates me from people who I want to be close to, and from even feeling love apart from in a distant way.
 

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Got my first DP experience about 12 yrs ago. I was 16 yrs old then. After a few yrs it was less present but never fully recovered from it. Last year it all came back after a very destructive relationship where I "forced" myself again in order to please the other person, as well as a shield to protect myself of what was happening. Since then it is a daily struggle again :-(

I never talked to anyone about it, always thought it was only me who had these feelings and the fear of being called crazy.

2 months ago I told one of my best friends finally about it. And she came up with the term "depersonalization". After reading a few articles on the internet, I almost cried from relief. I'm not the only one!

Worst moments are when I am by myself, when I am tired and/or stressed, or when I feel insecure around people (I have this very bad habit of forcing myself just to fit in).

Traveling can be good for some people, but for me it was only running away from the problem I realize now. I worked in France for a few months, studied in Spain for half a year, traveled in South America for half a year and then moved to Australia for a year. Now there is no running away from it anymore, don't have the energy/courage anymore.

I also believe medication won't help, only therapy, a healthy lifestyle, and being surrounded with people who are good for you, and of course as you already mentioned: time.

I started yoga a few weeks ago and must say I always feel a bit better afterwards, as well when I go running. I also wrote down all things that happened since I was a kid up to now, and get more and more insight on my problem.

Your story gives hope that it will all be okay, some day.

And one thing I learned from you is that it's important to accept you have DP, find peace in it and stop trying to fight it.
Million thanks for that, all little steps help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I wondered if you can say anything about managing romantic relationships - did you have any during those 9 years, or have you since? I ask because I find the mixture of anxiety and unreality I experience just so stressful that I sometimes can't feel anything above a kind of muted resentment when I'm with someone who I thought I liked, because of the extra stress that the social situation is putting on me.

If you did have any relationships, could you feel attraction, or even love? I feel i sometimes can't tell if I'm attracted to someone or if I just want to be, there's such a foggy stress-wall in-between reality and me. It makes me question if i should be in a relationship while I'm like this. It doesn't seem fair on the other person to not be there for them emotionally, and it's a lot of work trying to be alive and present just for myself, let alone when there's a whole other person there.

As you say, life will go on with it or without DP, but it makes me sad because it separates me from people who I want to be close to, and from even feeling love apart from in a distant way.
You're touching an important point for me: I have had three girlfriends in my life - longest was 1 year and a couple of romantic encounters. With everyone it ended the same: Me fleeing from it, fleeing from some strange fear that overtakes me whenever someone is too close for too long. I've also loved, felt loved and also had nice moments of cosy intimacy, but could never fully let go in those situations.

I see it differently: I think this is the actual reason for my DP. Whenever I think back, the DP was strongest when I was in a situation close to someone (besides my 'first encounter' with DP). My first therapist told me, that my weed panic attack was just an old trauma coming up unexpectedly. I still kind of believe in that.

On the other side I also think that DP itself influences my life, makes some things harder to encounter. With emotions just vanishing whenever they are too threatful, it's hard to know what's going on inside me.
 

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Thank you so much for posting.

Lately, I've been in a really unmotivated state and focusing too much on work and not on getting better, but as you said, every step takes time. I'll try to hone my focus in on doing what I want to do with my state rather than doing what I should for my future.

Regardless, I really, really appreciate the post, and if you don't mind, I'd love to message you about some stuff to get off my mind to keep me going. Not as if this is a journey towards a set goal, but motivation in general will help the situation in general, if that makes much sense.

Thank you so much. I hope to post something like this in the coming years, and you'll go down as an inspiration.
-Aire
 

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Sorry, but I thought this was against the forum rules to say things like : "It will go away, even if it doesn't feel like that right now."

So basically you're claiming it will go away on its own for everyone even if you do nothing about it?

Think this is some hazardous advice considering I have DP all my life and firmly believe it will not go away on its own.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Did you have the blank mind?
I assume that you ask this because you are experiencing a blank mind right now or see it as your main symptom. In my experience it does not matter what symptom one has, the reason for it lies somewhere else. In my 9 years of DP I surely had all symptoms that one associates with DP (not permanently though).
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I'm only 15 and i have dp since may from weed. Do you think i cant recover in the shorter time?
Generally: That is quite possible, but of course I can't say that for your specific case as I don't know you.

There are people that recover after just a few month, some after years. Some get it early in their life (as a child), some as a teenager, some even in their adolescence or adult life. This stuff is so individual that it's almost impossible to give an accurate prediction on what will happen.

Try to stay positive, get yourself some help, it will be over one day!
 
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